The Greatest Show on Earth

7.31.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

7.31.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

With a wildly creative and utterly unbelievable performance, Phish blew the minds of everyone in the Red Rocks audience last night with a show that so far surpassed anything that has come from this era of Phish, it is like comparing apples and oranges.  Only two nights into the second leg of Summer, and it was if we were witnessing a completely different band than we had seen in June.  Daring and confident, the band came out of the gates immediately and never stopped.  When the dust finally settled, set two took the shape of a gleaming masterpiece, leaving many in awe, pondering what the limitless future holds for all of us.  Taking an improvisational high-dive, the band weaved their way between stunning jams, resulting in a peerless tapestry of Phish sorcery.

7.31.09 (G.Lucas)

7.31.09 (G.Lucas)

After a first set that climaxed with a terrorizing “Spilt Open” amidst a sudden and swirling rainstorm, everyone waited out a slightly longer setbreak while the weather passed.  But when it did, Phish took the stage under the clear Colorado sky for a set that will be forever etched in our memory.  Spring-boarding into the frame with the newly-revitalized “Drowned,” the band immediately got to business with a hearty dose of full-on improv that took on the feel of a freight train barraging down the tracks with undeniable momentum.  Building a full head of steam, the band stretched the classic rock piece into the psychedelic plane, pushing the chugging jam into a percussive groove that segued seamlessly into “Crosseyed and Painless” in the band’s best transition in eons.  Igniting the entire vibe of the show with their musical acrobatics, the intensity level of the night was cranked up a few notches as the band attacked the composed section of the Talking Head’s cover with an unparalleled ferocity.  As the band slaughtered the piece, Kuroda introduced some intense new visuals against the backdrop of Red Rocks.  Projecting psychedelic patterns which took on the natural “folds” of the rocks brought the already full-on sensory experience to another plane.

7.31.09 (G.Lucas)

7.31.09 (G.Lucas)

But when the composition ended, the magic began.  Taking us on an intensely creative journey through several improvisational segments, this “Crosseyed” jam was pure Phish.  Taking a piece of music- turning it inside out and upside down- while creating melodic themes and rhythmic tangents; working the jam like Play Doh in the palm of their hands, Phish showcased the masterful communication that defined their past while firmly stepping into the future. Moving more fluidly than we have seen in ages, the band navigated the other-wordly jam with the prowess of a band that is playing not because they have something to prove, but because it is what they do. These four individuals were born to play music together, and now more than ever that is abundantly clear as their destinies have reconvened and set a course for the promised land.  After steering through their adventure, the band peaked “Crosseyed’s” cathartic journey with an triumphant section of improv that was enough to set anyone’s heart on fire.  “Drowned > Crosseyed”- file that in the “All-Time” category, please.

"Tweezer" 7.31.09 (G.Lucas)

"Tweezer" 7.31.09 (G.Lucas)

Dripping into “Joy,” Phish couldn’t have selected a better way to follow up their multi-faceted psychedelic romp.  Centering the poignant title track of their forthcoming album in the second set, the band continued to seamlessly merge their new and old material a rich musical potpourri.  As they emotionally played out their newest ballad, you could sense an impending “Tweezer,” and when it came, the Rocks were shaken to their core.  Indulging in some fiendishly-addictive mechanical funk, Phish got into a dark and a dancy version of their classic, absolutely bringing the house down with liquid grooves that just kept coming.  And just as the band began winding down “Tweezer” in what seemed to be old-school fashion, they ripped back into their funk-laced improv, just about imploding my head, and quite possibly several others simultaneously.  Not finished yet, they leapt back into the peak of “Tweezer” bringing the crack-like jam to a head before skillfully, and intentionally descending a pattern that landed in “Backwards Down the Number Line.”

7.31.09 (G.Lucas)

7.31.09 (G.Lucas)

In a set that just kept getting better, the band blew out “Number Line” with a unique melodic exploration that grew far from the song’s base before curving back into the end of the composition- far surpassing any previous version.  By anyone’s expectation, a closer seemed imminent, so when Phish stepped into the intro to “Fluffhead,” it was another moment that thickened the plot of the engaging musical drama that was unfolding in front of our eyes.  Building huge momentum through the piece, despite a couple of stumbles, the intensity was about to burst during “Bundle of Joy” when Fishman enthusiastically called out the rarely-sung lyrics.  And all was released when they hit the “The Arrival” with paramount creativity.  Featuring amazing band-interplay this final section transformed into something that had never happened before.  Harnessing the peak of “Fluffhead”- holding and sustaining the absolute top note of the jam- the band, aided by Gordon’s pronounced and rumbling bass, created one of the most unique transitions of the band’s career.  Melting the top of “Fluffhead” into the intro to “Piper,” Phish combined the two songs in an unprecedented transition that will send shivers down your spine.  Jaws hanging, not knowing what to think, we watched Phish crank up a spirited “Piper,” not knowing where we were heading.

7.31.09 (G.Lucas)

7.31.09 (G.Lucas)

As the band was in the midst of a blistering “Piper” you could see Trey’s mental light bulb spark as he conferred with Mike then Page while maintaining an unparalleled intensity.  Signalling to the band where the set should end, they allowed the jam to descend into a piano solo which artistically folded into “A Day in the Life.”  Thirteen years after the band debuted the seminal Sgt. Pepper’s track in the same mystic surroundings, Phish brought the song back to its roots, putting a symbolic and fitting cap on a show that words cannot do justice.  A playful “Suzy” encore bled into a bombastic Red Rocks “Reprise” that saw band and audience collectively bask in what they had just created.  With night like none other signifying an unfathomable future, Phish made even the most most veteran Phish fan feel like they were 19 years old again, unable to contain their excitement for their new discovery.  Yes- it was that good.

Set One Notes: The band was on fire from note one, bursting out of the gates with the combo of “Runaway,” Chalkdust,” both songs- like most played all night- improvisationally trumped any previous 3.0 version.  This trend continued with a loose, and stretched out “Bathtub Gin,” that finally broke the type-one stranglehold the band had on the song for this modern era.  A well-placed and well-played “Time Turns Elastic” appeared in the middle of the first set, but again sucked a lot of energy out of things with a few too many composed sections leading up to no real payoff.  Usually Phish rewards us with some sort of musical release after such an indulgent composition, but with “Time Turns Elastic” that never happens.  There’s a whole lot of waiting for nothing, but I digress.  A lull in the set was squarely punched in the eye by a raunchy “Stealing Time” and a supremely psychedelic “Split” that Phish played to the oncoming thunderstorm. This is some truly mindfuck stuff- the essence of what “Split” is all about.  But the ominous context of this version and the mind-control space jam they sustained during the storm made this one extra special.  All I can say after tonight is “Wow.”

I: Runaway Jim, Chalkdust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Time Turns Elastic, Lawn Boy, Water in the Sky, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Split Open and Melt
II: Drowned > Crosseyed and Painless, Joy, Tweezer > Backwards Down The Number Line, Fluffhead > Piper > A Day in the Life
E: Suzy Greenberg, Tweezer Reprise

Red Rocks 2nd night_6

Red Rocks 7.31.09 (Photo: Graham Lucas)

Tags: ,

307 Responses to “The Greatest Show on Earth”

  1. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    listening to runaway jim from last night; THIS IS HOW TREY’S GUITAR SHOULD SOUND

  2. Marshall Says:

    again ….. BEST SHOW OF 2009…… seriously. No … seriously.

  3. ATL 007 Says:

    That was a pro-style Tweezer.
    I had been concerned with the “in-song” transitions with some of the Tweezers and Ghosts PYITE so far this year….but the Tweezer was perfect last night! The stop-start, speed up-slow down, funk, space, metal and with some new Tweezer sounds overall.
    Building Steam…yea !

  4. Lewis Says:

    I love what I am hearing!!

  5. R1 Says:

    ^I’m with you ATL!

  6. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    siiiiiiick chalkdust

  7. bcb Says:

    ^^agreed, not usually the biggest fan of chalkdust (even if trey loves it) but this one got my bobbing good. i have not been this excited to listen to a show in quite a while. good feeling.

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    @f0ol – I knew you’d like that stuff – I thought of you a few times while listening, when Red hit those pure spots

  9. fromthetub Says:

    I think it’s pretty incredible that Mr. Miner can write these amazing reviews just hours after the show… with such detail. I’ve been at the last 2 shows as well, but could never break it down like this. All I’m saying is it’s 2pm and everyone in my crew is still sleeping. You rock, Miner! 🙂

    re: whale tone — it really sticks out now when I hear it and I have to laugh out loud when “it’s the whale again” pops in my head. Not too much of it last night if I remember correctly.

  10. Dr SF Jones Says:

    “The Drowned/Crosseyed jam deserves the praise it’s getting. I like that Page jumps right in to sing it; I’m not even sure Trey meant it to be a full transition, he might have just meant to quote it, but there goes the Chairman – nice assertiveness on his part.”

    That’s Fishman singing, but i agree nice assertiveness.

  11. John Says:

    Hey does anyone know where i can find a sbd of 12/30/94? I”d prefer lossless but i’ll take anything at this point. BTW Red Rocks is killin’ it…

  12. Marshall Says:

    After hearing TTE at Alpine, I came to the very sad conclusion that the ONLY place the song works is to close out a first set.

  13. Shnozberries Says:

    last night’s set 2 = best of 3.0. seemless transitions (drowned > cross eyed), loose exploratory jams (tweezer) and a sweet fluffhead (w/bundle of joy lyrics). exxxxxxxcellent. to think that was only the second show of this leg—yowza!

  14. bcb Says:

    Just finished TTE, gotta agree with whoever said ealier that it is cool at the begining and end. The middle gets a little boring. Oh well, it was nice when they released it…

  15. Hunter Says:

    Listening to Drowned>Crosseyed right now…

    Oh boy. Toyota Park can’t come soon enough.

  16. Pence Says:

    @dancing….for the “others” that may get mad at me for posting the SBD. You’re entitled to your opinion, and I know why you would get mad, I dont blame you. I just thought that some might be interested in it. To be honest it was the first tracked out recording I found (for free), so I got it. havent seen an aud.

  17. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    word completely, just finished the first set, basically perfect, even relatively enjoyed TTE, now i’m really getting exciting, for the rest of tour, for darien, for new years, etc… hopefully though soon we will see something more like a 30 minute, dark stealing time> lawn boy

  18. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @pence, word, i’m not afraid to admit that i’ve downloaded every SBD of this tour for free

  19. forbin Says:

    Anybody have any extra MPP pavillions? This is the only show I can make it to on the final weekend of tour.

  20. Marshall Says:

    SOAM is low, down, dirty, and just plain SICK!

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Dr Jones – I always forget he sings that, duh

  22. whole tour! Says:

    i need the aud source from hoodstream….it sounds PERFECT!

  23. Whole tour! Says:

    @pence … thanks for the links brother! After pre ordering the entire first leg of summer tour i was less than impressed, so i decided not to spend the cash for leg two untill i am 100% certain the sound issues have been fixed. Your links to the shows are fucking fantastic!! thanks again, keep the links coming!

    I personally think that whatever source hoodstream has up today is the best sounding phish recording i have heard in ages. Perhaps it is just red rocks itself, but on the hoodstream aud there is no yelling or crowd noise at all.

  24. UVM TBA Says:

    The Tweezer was like 2001 Mikes Gorge 98′. As a friend said after that show trey was like here’s the funk there’s the funk every where’s the funk. Same with last night’s Tweezer. I am quitting drugs….’xept herb of course if I can just avond the noia :<)Love all you freaks.

    See ya at Shoreline, and I was thinking of blowing off the Gorge… loser, at least I can admit it.

    PHISH IS SICK!!!!!! Fluffyfucking head. UVM 90' Trip

    40 is just an age not a state of mind.

  25. UVM TBA Says:


Leave a Reply